Should you know if your neighbor owns a gun?

Globe Staff/Adobe Last year, the San Francisco Chronicle submitted a government records request to nearby counties for information about individuals who had applied for and obtained a concealed-weapons permit. The journalists’ goal was not to expose those individuals but to understand whether there were patterns in how gun licenses were being given out that might endanger the public. Under state law, the counties were legally required to turn over the information. But one county sheriff took to Facebook to alert the public of the request and sent a letter to each permit holder that his office was about to release their personal information to the Chronicle. You can guess what happened next. The reporter and the newspaper received threats of violence — so many that security had to be increased in the newsroom. It’s an old story: How do you balance the public’s right to know if their neighbors own guns vs. gun owners’ privacy rights? Following the horrific Newtown, Conn., mass shooting in 2012, a neighboring suburban newspaper in New York tried to give readers that information, publishing an interactive map revealing the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in two counties. But the paper received intense backlash , and gun advocates successfully pushed for legislation to broadly limit the disclosure of gun ownership records under New York’s law. Similar news features ran in North Carolina and Virginia, only to end up either redacted or retracted after fiery backlash. So, it’s no surprise that most states have […]

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